Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When We First Decided to Homeschool

I often have people ask me if I "always" wanted to homeschool.

No.

I didn't ever want to homeschool. I know people who plan to homeschool from the moment they find out they are expecting a baby. They research curriculum, join message boards on-line, and start lessons when their kids are barely toddling.

I was not one of those people.

I wanted my kids to be normal.

And homeschooling is not normal. Not mainstream. Not what everyone is doing. Especially not ten years ago when we first started.

Ben actually went to a year of preschool. The entire year he was in preschool, I worried about which school I should send him to the next year. The preschool was independent, not attached to any school. So we had the choice of sending him to the local public school, the local private school, or putting him in another year of preschool since he was one of the youngest kids in his class.

I had one friend who homeschooled. She told me, "Ben is really smart. You should consider homeschooling him."

"Oh that's nice for you," I thought. "But I could never do that. I want my kids to be normal."

I started talking to other moms who had kids in school to find out what they thought of their kid's schools.

Actually I learned very quickly not to ask them about their schools outright. If you tell someone you are thinking of sending your kid to their school, they will tell you how much they love it. They will recite all the wonderful things their kids have learned and the projects they have worked on and the field trips they have taken. You will hear nothing but glowing reports about their school. Because then, if you choose their school as well, you have validated their choice.

What I did was stand in a group of women at any event I attended and just listen to them talk without telling them I was considering schools for the future. Invariably, they would talk about having to go in and argue with a teacher/principal/other parent about all the problems they were having with the schools. Kids were bullied, unfair punishments were meted out, homework was overwhelming, dirty rhymes were learned, classrooms were crowded, etc. etc. etc.

I would come home from these gatherings in agony at the thought of sending my angel faced baby off to these war trenches.

And all this time I kept hanging out with my homeschooling friend and her kids were so polite! They were mannerly, respectful, and actually looked me in the eye and talked to me when I was around. My friend's children who attended "real" school avoided adult contact like the plague and answered all questions in monosyllabic mumbles.

So, we started to consider it. I asked around and checked out curriculum. We thought about it some more. I listened to the homeschool moms talk. We prayed.

And then, we received a sign from heaven.

We found out that the state of Alaska would give us a computer and pay for our Internet if we decided to homeschool.

Now we weren't totally sold on the idea of homeschooling, but we really wanted a computer.

We decided it couldn't possibly ruin Ben if we tried homeschooling for a year. If it didn't work out, we would just put him in kindergarten the following year and it would be the same as if he'd had another year of preschool.

Decision made with full confidence!

Then one day I drove past the local elementary school and saw a sign out by the street that read, "LAST DAY TO REGISTER FOR KINDERGARTEN".

I nearly hyperventilated.

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